Jeff Klooger

In Issue 4 on October 31, 2009 at 7:50 am

Ave Maria At The Crossing

After the painting by Giovanni Segantini

These mountains cupped their hands
to catch a pool of golden light, and show
how round the world is, how still
and true to the wishes of the weary travellers,
the family drawn together in this simple vessel
beneath crossed staves, to mark
the rite of each day’s passage.

The lake is empty, but the boat
is full, its living cargo jostling the rower,
who leans on his oars to stay awake
as the day dies quietly, forgiving
all our imperfections.
The sheep bend low to drink
their own reflections. The mother
rocks her child on her knee, the two of them
resting against each other, cheek to cheek,
and the lamb peeking over the bow,
searching for dreamt-of pastures to frolic in.

The sky is a dome, the lake is a bowl
and the whole world floats between
in the setting sun. At the end of the day
all things revert
to what they truly are and mean.
Ripples ring the boat
like time encircling its source,
its holy centre, hope and solace,
our origin and end,
the still and silent moment of our passing.


When I was a seeker and needed a desert
to wander in, I found what I needed
in empty suburban streets at midnight, under stars,
under streetlights that buzzed like enormous
alien insects, songs of electricity
and loneliness, of desperation. No solace there,
just the hollow clatter of shoes on concrete,
playground swings and slides to show how
I had become too large and ungainly
for the pleasures of childhood.
What I sought was an answer
and an escape: both the same. Life cried out
for something more, my body
cried out, my brain whirred
and slipped and spun without traction.
Life was about going nowhere
and never arriving; but all that internal motion,
every muscle straining in the rush
of thought and desire, plummeting
head-long into the imaginary future –
something just had to break, I wanted
something to break, to shatter
the frozen world, the creaking ice-flow
of day upon day. The desert is what I needed,
what I wanted, the unrelieved absence
of life’s distractions, like the absence
of hope, of comforting lies. I turned my face
to confront head on what lay behind
textbook solutions and kindly platitudes,
a truth as stark and chilling
as the thought of freedom.

What did I find? What do prophets find
in the desert? Their God, their mission,
a world of illusions all their own, truth being
but a variety of illusion. I found
a degree of expansiveness I had not reckoned on,
a oneness of the simple and the sublime,
a unity and kinship between my pitiful self
and the cold and glorious blackness
of the night sky. It filled me up
for a time, and let me live; and even now
I sometimes return to it, remembering with envy
the untrained virtuosity of youth,
forgetting the pain, the bottomless ache
that forced me into that desert, that made me
so desperate for answers, so hungry for wonders.

What Is

Impossible! From the first
peremptory explosion we have gambled
against entropy’s impossible odds
and won, and keep on winning, staking all
on every spin, and heaping fortune
upon fortune, miracle on miracle.

How miserable! To be so lucky
and so undeserving makes no sense.
It’s true we die. You and I
certainly will. And if you listen right
it’s possible to hear the whole world moaning
as if one collective agony gripped it
in a barbed-wire fist.
But is this suffering a truth
to be believed in or endured,
sworn by or sworn at? I don’t know
and when I think I do, I’m wrong.

I only know that waiting at a station
after sudden rain, the sun just happens
to touch my cheek, and the moss
shines emerald green on red,
red brick, and I forget what doom
this madness runs to.

Laughing Buddha

Great sage, enlightened one
or just a fat and jolly monk,
my laughing Buddha smiles at me
from his bookshelf home,
sack slung over his back, begging bowl
proffered hopefully, or in wise, resigned
acceptance of the limits to this world’s generosity.

Respect for the religious life ebbs and flows
like the seasons, but his mood is permanent,
a year-long mirth nudging his huge, bare
belly into a quivering dance.
Everything and anything can start those waves
rocking on his ocean of flesh. What is not
funny, after all? Sorrow, pain, suffering, death
− all illusion! Only a fool
would not laugh!
If his enormous body
should complain of its burdens, he ignores it,
knowing any body will deceive you
if you let it. In truth, he is as light
as the tune he hums as he walks
from mountain to valley, from this village
to the next. His way is endless, and
endlessly joyous. Wherever he goes
crowds of children trail behind him
and mothers rub his quivering belly for luck.

The World

A tower opens onto a view
presenting itself to the viewer
like a table laden with fruit.

Imaginary fruit! Delicious!

Imagine what you could do or make
with a scene like this.
flower into consciousness
perfume your inner life
with their profligacy.

Looking out

I am reminded of that statue of the Buddha
tall as a mountain, with hollow eyes.
Staring up at its great hulking mass
you miss the wonder others claim to see.

The trick is to climb the steps
behind the statue and peer out
through the Buddha’s own eyes.
Then breath catches in your throat
your skull cap comes loose
and the chill breeze of the sublime
washes through you.

Look! See what the Buddha sees!
The world stretched before him
like an offering.

Jeff Klooger’s poetry has been published in Australian and international online and print journals. Recently his work has appeared in The Liberal, Harvest, dotdotdash, Words-Myth and Pure Francis. His other interests are music and philosophy. His book on the ideas of the Greek-French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis was published in 2009.

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